The COVID-19 pandemic loomed large over the 2021 legislative session, both forcing lawmakers to convene virtually while presenting them with a large and daunting list of urgent challenges to tackle. Majority Democrats in the House and Senate responded with easily the most momentous and activist session in decades, not only responding to a raft of COVID-related challenges but also making landmark, long-sought-after progress on major progressive priorities, including racial justice and tax reform.
In addition to passing a record nearly $60 billion biennial operating budget ($5 billion more than the previous budget), lawmakers also appropriated $10 billion in federal relief to help support and stabilize the K-12 continuum. Investments include $1.7 billion for school reopening, nearly $700 million in rental assistance, and nearly $50 million in grants for community organizations and expanded learning programs. The state is investing $500 million for increased provider rates and grants for child care providers, which comes on top of investments made in quality early learning opportunities through the Fair Start for Kids Act.
Efforts by the Tacoma College Support Network to increase access to higher education resulted in the passing of SB-5321 to expand access to the college bound scholarship. This policy shift ensures that all eligible students are automatically opted-in to receive the scholarship – removing the parent signature currently required for enrollment and impacting more than 10k+ students statewide.
Lawmakers approved a suite of bills aimed at promoting racial equity, including establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday, banning Native American mascot names, restoring voting rights to previously incarcerated individuals, and new requirements for equity and anti-bias training for educators and medical students.
Lawmakers also made major changes to make Washington’s tax structure more equitable by funding and expanding the working families tax credit, which is paid for by a new 7% tax on capital gains from the sale of assets in excess of $250,000 – a funding stream that also is expected to generate over $400 million per year into the Education Legacy Trust Account for early learning and childcare.
Thank you to all of our partners who signed petitions, sent letters, testified, and advocated for our students this session!